Category: Blog

A View of Leadership

There is the timeless, changeless core: our humanity — that which we truly ARE, what we have always been (regardless of our (sometimes) behavior to the contrary).

And then there is the external: behavior — that which must interact and adapt, this is what leaders DO.

The core is who they are, behavior is what they do. Leadership can only happen when there is little-to-no difference between character (core) and consistent behavior.

When you bring your core forth, people follow. When you master your actions, you get them somewhere.

This post (really the above text) has been in my Drafts folder for quite some time. I wasn’t sure if it made sense . . . the language seemed convoluted, obtuse even. But I reviewed it again and decided it was ready for release (after some minor editing . . . ).

Disaster Tolerance

Are you disaster-tolerant? (Do you have reserves?) This question is well-posed in Seth Godin’s blog post (here it is in its entirety):

Not all disasters can be avoided.

Not all disasters are fatal.

If you accept these two truths, your approach to risk will change. If you build a disaster-tolerant nation or project or lifestyle, you will be more willing to challenge the fates and won’t hide out.

The disaster-tolerant approach means that you can focus on the upside of risk instead of obsessing about the worst possible outcome. And once you do that, the upside is more likely to occur.

If your hard drive has backups, you don’t have to be as careful in buying hard drives. It’s okay if a cheap one breaks. If your portfolio of artistic or financial endeavors isn’t wrapped up in one project or one gallery, it’s okay to do something a bit more daring, because one critic can’t cripple you.

That outcome you were so afraid of isn’t so bad, and once you realize you can tolerate it, it’s (amazingly, perversely and ironically) less likely to happen.

The idea of reserves is so powerful for me. When I read the “Super Reserve” chapter in Thomas Leonard’s book The Portable Coach my thinking was transformed. For me it boils down to two levels of reserve: 1) a basic level of extra wherein one has enough of something to last a little while (“a little while” being relative of course) and 2) a “Super Reserve” which means having way more of something than you’ll need or use for a long while.

Let me offer an example: toilet tissue. A ‘reserve’ might be buying the economy size package the next time you’re at the store (when you normally buy the ‘standard’ size package), and perhaps before you’re down to the last roll or two. A Super Reserve is where you calculate your usage and buy enough for six months.

If there’s an area of your life causing you stress consider creating a Super Reserve. It will alleviate your stress in two key ways: 1) you’ll have enough of whatever it is and 2) you’ll have the deeper psychological peace of knowing that you can create a Super Reserve.

What If . . .

I told you there was a collection of books written by wise men and women who have worked very hard to investigate, research and describe the ways to transform our lives into ones of effectiveness, excellence and fulfillment?

There is. I have one on my bookshelves. I have collected them over the years and reading and contemplating them has enriched my life immeasurably. I have learned, and grown, a great deal from working to apply the wisdom and practices the authors have shared with me.

A “success library,” as Jim Rohn calls it, is vital to an excellent life. I recommend you begin to build yours today (if you haven’t already). There is something powerful about the presence of a physical book, at least for me. I am grateful for and enjoy my books — both in the reading and the having.

Compete Against Yourself

Recently, on my Facebook  Page I posted a quote from Steve Young (former professional (American) football player) that reminded us to compete against ourselves, to be better that we were before. I was reminded of that idea (and it’s great advice . . . ) when I read Seth Godin’s most recent blog post; here it is in its entirety:

The other day, after a talk to some graduate students at the Julliard School, one asked, “In The Dip, you talk about the advantage of mastery vs. being a mediocre jack of all trades. So does it make sense for me to continue focusing on mastering the violin?”

Without fear of error, I think it’s easy to say that this woman will never become the best violinist in the world. That’s because it’s essentially impossible to be the one and only best violinist in the world. There might be 5,000 or 10,000 people who are so technically good at it as to be indistinguishable to all but a handful of orchestra listeners. This is true for many competitive fields–we might want to fool ourselves into thinking that we have become the one and only best at a technical skill, but it’s extremely unlikely.

The quest for technical best is a form of hiding. You can hide from the marketplace because you’re still practicing your technique. And you can hide from the hard work of real art and real connection because you decide that success lies in being the best technically, at getting a 99 instead of a 98 on an exam.

What we can become the best at is being an idiosyncratic exception to the standard. Joshua Bell is often mentioned (when violinists are mentioned at all) not because he is technically better than every other violinst, but because of his charisma and willingness to cross categories. He’s the best in the world at being Josh Bell, not the best in the world at playing the violin.

The same trap happens to people who are coding in Java, designing furniture or training to be a corporate coach. It’s a seductive form of self motivation, the notion that we can push and push and stay inside the lines and through sheer will, become technically perfect and thus in demand. Alas, it’s not going to happen for most of us.

[The flipside of this are the practioners who bolster themselves up by claiming that they are, in fact, the most technically adept in the world. In my experience, they’re fibbing to themselves when they’d be better off taking the time and effort to practice their craft. Just saying it doesn’t make it so.]

Until we’re honest withourselves about what we’re going to master, there’s no chance we’ll accomplish it.

What can you be the best version of you at? There is only one best of anything, and it’s subjective, relative and changeable. So why bother trying to be that, be the best version of yourself, each year, each month, each week, each hour and each minute.

To get better, to engage in the process of mastery, all you have to do is ask yourself: “How did that go? Is that what I want to be doing?” If the answer is yes, ask yourself: “How can I get better? How can I improve?”

What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?

We’re all familiar with this question, but the way we all process it is: What do you want to do when you grow up?

I’m interested in who you want to be when you grow up, and now is as good as time as any to start being what you’ve always wanted to be.

This notion is strongly tied to my disdain for the terribly un-creative question we all ask each other when we first meet: “So, what do you do?” Who really cares? (I don’t.)

I want to know: what music you like, where you’re from, what your proudest moment is, what you’re favorite trip was, what your hobbies are, what you would do if you were put in charge of a $1B charity that had to give away it’s money in 10 years, but could no more than $1M to each recipient (none could be private individuals, by the way), what your favorite foods are . . . or whatever you want me to know about you.

So, what do you want to be when grow up? And remember, you’re already somebody, so which version of you do you want to be? It’s never too late to start.